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8 Steps To a Successful Party
1. Who, What, Where
2. All the Little Things
3. Planning the Theme
4. The Guest List
5. Let's Make It a Party
6. Creating the Menu
7. It's about the Bling
8. The Wrap Up

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Creating the Menu

From the Good Hostess's Guide
On Food

 
     
 

 
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Creating the Perfect Menu

By Sirena Van Schaik

Ah, the pièce de résistance to any baby shower – the menu!  Everyone loves a good meal and they always appreciate one that is well planned out and is as presentable as it is delectable.  Food just isn’t about taste; it’s about how it’s presented -- the colors that entice the taste buds and the smells that tickle your nose.  Food is as big a production as the baby shower itself, and there are a few things that should be taken into consideration when you plan a baby shower menu.

The first thing that you should think about, besides your budget, is whether or not the food you are offering can be consumed by your guest of honor.  This may seem like such a small thing but there are some foods that pregnant women should avoid and there are many foods that may have an adverse affect on the expectant mom’s tummy, whether she eats it or only smells it.  Find out first what foods create a negative experience for her and avoid them.  This doesn’t mean that you need to avoid all the foods that she finds unpalatable but try to avoid ones that have smells that trigger nausea or worse.

Once you know what foods to avoid or better yet, what foods are mom’s favorites right now, you can look at your budget and start planning your menu.   If you are going with a caterer, they will be able to lead you through the process much easier than we can.  They are, after all, professionals in their chosen field, but you should have some knowledge of what you want and need before you approach a caterer.   Let’s look at what you should know before we get down to the nitty gritty of planning the menu.

We have discussed themes several times but let’s review once more because a theme can greatly affect your choice in menu.  A baby shower tea theme may only have finger foods and things like fancy sandwiches and delectable desserts, while an elegant evening baby shower may have a sit down meal with hors d’oeuvres, a main course and dessert.   Themes will also change your choice in foods.  A sesame street theme may have more kid friendly foods like chips and pop while a garden shower may have fruit and veggie dishes.  Knowing what meal plan and foods best reflect your theme will help in deciding the menu plan whether you are doing it yourself or with a caterer.

Next, you want to look at the time of year that you are having your shower since this can also affect your budget.  Choosing foods that are in season will help keep costs down and may also alter your menu plans.  Chances are that you will not want to have a lot of barbecued items on a menu in the middle of winter, and you also won’t want hot chocolate in the middle of a hot afternoon summer day.  When you take the season into account, you will also need to take the time of day into consideration as well.  An early afternoon shower may only require finger foods while an evening shower may require a dinner menu.

Decide on whether you want a buffet or a sit down meal.  Again, the time of your shower will be a deciding factor in the decision.  Both have benefits and both have detractors and the choice in meal type is more a preference thing than anything else.

Lastly, consider your guest list.  Knowing things like how many people are coming and what type of menu your guests prefer is the best way to plan that perfect menu. You can often get a sense of whether your guests would prefer lots of veggies and fruit or if they prefer chips and desserts just by talking to the other people involved in the shower and also by what you know of the guests already.  You will also need to make allowances for allergies listed on the RSVP.  If you don’t know about allergies, avoid things like peanuts, which can cause severe reactions in some people.  Generally, people will let you know if they have such an allergy, but it would certainly be a good idea to ask the people who are helping you put together the guest list.

Now that you have all the information, you should be pretty sure of where your menu is heading.  You can express this to a caterer or restaurant or you can incorporate it into your own menu plan.  Don’t hesitate in telling the caterer what you don’t want, even if they strongly recommend it.  You are the best judge of what foods will be a hit and what ones won’t.

If you are making the food yourself, there are a few other things that you need to consider before you start your menu plan; these are time and help.  How much time will you have to make the food?  Do you have others who will help prepare and set it up or are you doing it all yourself?  If you are getting help, or better yet, if you are having a potluck, you may not have to do much planning in the meals department.  Everyone will let you know what she is bringing, and so the only job you will have is ensuring that not everyone brings a main course or a dessert.  In the case of a potluck, it is best to ask for this information in the RSVP.

Knowing the prep work of all your dishes is also important in preparing the menu plan.  You can cut a lot of time if you have dishes that can be pre-made and frozen.  Many of them can then be done a week before the shower.  If your meals need to be made the day of the shower, you may have to keep them simple and fast.  That way you do not spend the entire day preparing food, only to be exhausted before the party even starts.

There really is no way for us to give you a perfect menu, although we can give you many suggestions in our recipe section.  Ultimately the menu is up to you and is unique to your group of friends and family.  There are considerations for every meal that we have discussed above, and there are certain things that you will need for every menu that we have outlined below.  After that, it is up to you to plan the menu and the shopping list to go along with it.


Beverages: 

Plan to have enough variety in your beverages; offer several different types of pop, and juice and also offer coffee, tea and water.  It is not a general practice to have alcohol at a baby shower but if you choose to (particularly for a couples shower), make sure there are a number of different kinds and that you have a bartender who will limit the number of drinks the guests have.  Remember that you are responsible for your guests so if someone becomes inebriated, you need to collect keys, purchase taxis or arrange rides.  Unless you definitely know the preferences of the group of guests, the best advice is just to avoid alcohol since it really isn’t necessary for a fun baby shower.

Appetizers: 
Whether you have a buffet or a sit down meal, you will need to have appetizers to go with it.  People like to have the option to munch whenever they feel peckish, and you should not feel obligated to set up the main course before it is time.  Having things like veggie platters, cheese and crackers, and fruit platters will buy you time and also fill up your guests so you don’t need a huge main course.  You can also have nuts (in their own bowl to avoid allergy problems), pretzel sticks, little candies, and chips around the room for people to snack on during the shower.  Try to have about 3 to 5 (or more) appetizers available to your guests during the beginning of the shower.

Main Course:
This is the main part of your meal, or your buffet, when everyone will usually dine.  Not all baby showers have a main course but if not then the appetizers will consist of finger foods like sandwiches.  For a sit down meal, the main course will probably be very structured with only one or two choices of meat, veggies, potato and a bun, while a buffet will need 2 or 3 choices of each.  A buffet provides a lot more variety but can be more cost effective than a sit down meal.

Salads: 
Salads can come before, after or with the main course and are not a necessary staple of all baby showers.  It is good to offer some type of vegetable, like a veggie platter, and a salad can be a fast and cost effective way to offer them.  Make sure you provide several types of salad dressing if you have a salad.  If it is a women’s only shower, and you know that the group of women like to dine light, you may perhaps consider a salad as a main course.  For example: fine tuna, asian-themed ingredients, or grilled/roasted chicken salads are all nice main course salads that many women enjoy, particularly for lunch.  Basically, it all comes back to knowing your guests and their preferences!

Desserts:
In a finger food style meal, you will generally have the desserts laid out with the rest of the food but usually, even with a buffet, you will place the desserts out after the main course and salad are done.  A great rule to follow is to save the desserts for about 20 minutes after the meal is done.  Offer a game or maybe open presents while everyone is waiting for their stomachs to settle and the coffee and tea to brew.  Then you can bring out the desserts and offer the coffee and tea to go along with them.  Be sure to have herbal tea and decaf coffee on hand for those who do not want caffeine.

 

So now that we know what a menu consists of, it is time to head off to our baby shower recipes section and pick out a few great recipes to pad out your menu plan.  Make sure you print out our handy menu planner before you start and, above all else, enjoy the process of creating a perfect menu!

 

Go to Step #7 of the 8-Step Planning Guide >>

 


 

 

 
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